PASADENA, Calif. — Why is NatGeo’s new Genius painter Pablo Picasso?
After tackling Albert Einstein (played by Geoffrey Rush) in the first season, the second, due April 24, focuses on the Spanish painter. Antonio Banderas, who shares the hometown of Malaga with the painter, plays him at the height of his career, while Alex Rich (True Detective) portrays him in his formative years.
Einstein and Picasso were similarly deserving of Genius treatment because they were “original in the way they thought and challenged different forces in the world at the time,” says Brian Grazer, a producer of the project with Ron Howard. In response to questions at the Television Critics Association press tour Saturday, Grazer says they are “zeroing in” on a woman for a possible third season of the 10-episode series.
The painter, who died in 1973 at 91, loomed large in Banderas’ youth: “He was very important in my life. Going to school we always crossed in front of the street where Picasso was born,” Banderas told the Television Critics Association Saturday, via satellite from Budapest, where the series is being filmed. “We didn’t have many international heroes.”
What did Rich learn? “The volatility in the dynamics of his personal life. There was so much in the way he lived his life that informs his art. The way he looked at the world to form a new perspective. I didn’t anticipate the level of connection between the personal and creative parts of his life.”
Among stars returning from Season 1 is T.R Knight (Grey’s Anatomy), who played J. Edgar Hoover last season, this time plays Max Jacob, a writer who was a close friend of Picasso.
But, producers say, genius does not mean saint. "This is not a hagiography; we're showing the good, the bad and the ugly," said writer, director and executive producer Ken Biller. "He did some not-so-nice things, and they are portrayed in the show."